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7/27/2017 12:49 pm  #1

The thomistic understanding of the Principle of Double Effect

I know that Traditional Natural Law theorists and New Natural Law theorists disagree on this important issue: If you cause another person's death but you didn't intend his death as an end or as a mean, is this sufficient to make your act licit?
I'm quoting from Dr. Feser's blog:

"One notorious example concerns craniotomy and abortion.  Again, NNLT writers are opposed to intentionally killing an unborn child.  However, some of them have argued that crushing a fetus’s skull so as to remove it from the mother’s body and thereby end the pregnancy need not reflect an intention to kill the fetus even though this procedure will in fact kill it.  It could reflect instead merely an intention to alter the shape of the fetus’s skull so as more easily to remove it, and in some cases be in principle justifiable (by the principle of double effect) on that basis.  This reflects the NNLT’s distinctive analysis of intention, which is very different from the traditional Thomistic analysis, and (unsurprisingly) it has generated considerable controversy among Catholic moral theologians".

Moreover, I've read that Finnis considers stabbing a lethal aggressor in the heart a licit form of self-defence, while thomists would disagree. So my question is: what is, exactly, the thomistic understanding of the Principle of Double Effect? How do you distinguish a licit way to indirectly cause one person's death from what is really DIRECTLY causing one person's death.

Last edited by Discens (7/27/2017 12:51 pm)


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